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Creatures great and small: World Photography Award Winners

Thomas Bywater

Thomas Bywater is a writer and digital producer for Herald Travel

The Sony World Photography Awards have revealed the winning snaps of 2021, with the Wildlife Landscape and Environment categories celebrating natural world.

This year it was all creatures great and small, captured by the planet's best photographers.

In third place, going under the microscope was the work of Angel Fitor whose animals fitted within a single drop of water.

Distilled down to the range of 200 to 1,500 microns he captured live plankton and microscopic organisms. Some of the animals in these pictures had never before been documented.

Sea water drops containing several plankton creatures from a night sampling. Photo / Angel Fitor, SWPA2021
Sea water drops containing several plankton creatures from a night sampling. Photo / Angel Fitor, SWPA2021

"I have imagined the ocean as a superorganism, with the world's seas as its organs, and its creatures as the tissues that interconnect everything," he said in his submission.

The live micro-organisms were released unharmed back into the sea, he reported.

At the other end of the scale was the second place.

Runner up was the UK's Graeme Purdy whose submission was a wildlife safari of Tanzania's big five.

Lion as part of Tanzania's big five in a photo safari. Photo / Graeme Purdy, SWPA2021
Lion as part of Tanzania's big five in a photo safari. Photo / Graeme Purdy, SWPA2021

"With these iconic wild animals, being in close proximity is too dangerous, so you need to be inventive and innovative," said judges. Using wide angles and wireless camera traps, Purdy brought plenty of both to his shots.

A lion and wildebeests caught, up close and in action by hidden wide angle cameras, only seem larger and more majestic.

Wildebeest captured by a hidden camera trap. Photo / Graeme Purdy, SWPA2021
Wildebeest captured by a hidden camera trap. Photo / Graeme Purdy, SWPA2021
From amoeba to elephants. Photo / Graeme Purdy, SWPA2021
From amoeba to elephants. Photo / Graeme Purdy, SWPA2021

However, it was Luis Tato who captured scale in a different way.

His photos of a locust swarm in East Africa won the praise of the Sony World Photography judges, who crowned him as Nature and Wildlife category winner 2021.

A truck with a worker on the top of the trailer drives in a road completely surrounded by a massive swarm of locust in Kenya. Photo / Luis Tato , SWPA2021
A truck with a worker on the top of the trailer drives in a road completely surrounded by a massive swarm of locust in Kenya. Photo / Luis Tato , SWPA2021

Photographing the plague of locusts on the Arabian Peninsular, the natural phenomenon is both awesome and tragic as he capered people powerless to stop the insects.

Herny Lenayasa, a Samburu man and chief of the settlement of Archers Post tries to scare away a massive swarm of locust ravaging the area. Photo / Luis Tato, SWPA2021
Herny Lenayasa, a Samburu man and chief of the settlement of Archers Post tries to scare away a massive swarm of locust ravaging the area. Photo / Luis Tato, SWPA2021
Hopper bands of desert locust infest a grazing area in Nakukulas in Turkana County, Kenya. Photo / Luis Tato, SWPA2021
Hopper bands of desert locust infest a grazing area in Nakukulas in Turkana County, Kenya. Photo / Luis Tato, SWPA2021

"Covid-19 restrictions have significantly slowed efforts to fight the infestation," he noted.

"Crossing borders has become more difficult, creating delays and disrupting the supply chains of pesticides and products needed to prevent these pests from wiping out vegetation across the region and exposing millions of people to high levels of food insecurity."

Far away in Iceland, the photographer Simone Tramonte captured a different story in his collection Net-zero Transition.

The Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland's most important tourist attractions uses geothermal water that has already generated electricity. Photo / Simone Tramonte, SWPA2021
The Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland's most important tourist attractions uses geothermal water that has already generated electricity. Photo / Simone Tramonte, SWPA2021
Kjartan, a researcher at the Icelandic Agricultural University, in the banana plantation in Hverager. Photo / Simone Tramonte, SWPA2021
Kjartan, a researcher at the Icelandic Agricultural University, in the banana plantation in Hverager. Photo / Simone Tramonte, SWPA2021

The photos showing how Iceland has harnessed geothermal energy to grow exotic bananas and heat spa pools, they won first place in the environment category.

In ten years Iceland has built sci-fi like technology: a borehole at a geothermal plant, in Hengill. Photo / Simone Tramonte, SWPA2021
In ten years Iceland has built sci-fi like technology: a borehole at a geothermal plant, in Hengill. Photo / Simone Tramonte, SWPA2021
Wells and pipes in Krafla geothermal power station, in northern Iceland. Photo / Simone Tramonte, SWPA2021
Wells and pipes in Krafla geothermal power station, in northern Iceland. Photo / Simone Tramonte, SWPA2021

It might be a surprise to know that most of these space age facilities have been built since the 2008 financial crisis, when the country decided to rethink its reliance on importing coal and gas.

"In a few decades, the country moved away from fossil fuels to producing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources."